#EnvHist Worth Reading: April 2024

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Every month I carefully track the most popular and significant environmental history articles, videos, audio, and other items making their way through the online environmental history (#envhist) community. You can read all of our past #EnvHist Worth Reading lists right here. Here are my choices for items most worth reading from April 2024:

1. Century of climbers’ notes from alpine shelter offer glimpse of changing peaks

This CBC News article by Helen Pike highlights research being conducted by University of Calgary PhD Candidate, Kate Hanly into what the history of mountaineering in the Rockies can tell us about climate change. Focusing on Abbot Pass, Hanly compares data from the Environment and Climate Change weather station in Banff to a hundred years of summit register entries in order to build a localized picture of climate change. The registry shows how climbers have adapted to changing conditions, as well as the value of individual mountain guide knowledge. “Climbers are climbing increasingly on rock or on loose scree, the material that was underlying the ice, and they’re seeing more rockfall,” Hanly states.

2. Fire Forged Humanity. Now It Threatens Everything

In Stephen Pyne’s latest writing on fire for Scientific American, he provides an overview of how humans evolved with fire and explains the concept of “The Pyrocene,” which he debuted several years ago. Pyne walks the reader through what he calls “first fire” or natural fire and “second fire” or domesticated fire. The “conversion to combustion chambers, especially when used to burn fossil fuels, created the ‘third fire’ that dominates the planet today,” he explains. He concludes by arguing that we have too much bad fire, too little good fire, and too much combustion overall, “Good fire made us. Bad fire may break us. The choice is ours.”

3. Russian Environmental Politics: Reading between the Lines—The Wounds of War, and What We Must Know

In this opening piece for Seeing the Woods, Vita Lacis reflects on the current Russia-Ukraine war and her involvement in anti-war protests, as well as the general pressure to distance oneself currently from anything Russian. Lacis argues that Putin’s war is not a “foregone conclusion, neither is Russia’s role as one of the world’s biggest fossil-fuel suppliers.” Lacis further discusses how Russian secrecy and global distrust tend to hide both the everyday lives of Russians and the work that is being done and needs to be done in regards to climate change and other environmental issues. In forthcoming posts, Lacis will try to address and illuminate upon some of these topics.

4. Prof. Gregg Mitman, Dr. Emmanuelle Roth – On Fragments and Hotspots

In this talk organized by the Department of European Ethnology – Cultural Anthropology, University of Pécs and the Rachel Carson Center, Gregg Mitman presents a talk written by himself and Emmanuelle Roth, “On Fragments and Hotspots: Containment and Care in the Extraction of Mount Nimba.” Mount Nimba, Mitman and Roth show, acts as a kind of nexus for Anthropocene forces, including climate change, species extinction, and disease outbreaks. I particularly enjoyed how Mitman showed that old mining adits and infrastucture now acts as critical habitat for bats and other species.

5. Work #6 – Emptying an Ocean – COMMONS

This episode of CANADALAND’s COMMONS is an engaging and accessible account of the collapse of Newfoundland’s cod fishery, which was also “the most devastating mass layoff in Canadian history.” Making the connection between labour and environment, the episode shows how ignoring the knowledge of workers can have disastrous consequences.

Feature Image: “NASA Satellites See California Wildfires from Space” by NASA Goddard Photo and Video is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
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is an environmental historian of Canada and the United States, editor, and digital communications strategist. She earned her PhD in History from the University of Saskatchewan in 2019. She is an executive member, editor-in-chief, and social media editor for the Network in Canadian History and Environment (NiCHE). She is also a working board member of the Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society and Girls Rock Saskatoon. A passionate social justice advocate, she focuses on developing digital techniques and communications that bridge the divide between academia and the general public in order to democratize knowledge access. You can find out more about her and her freelance services at jessicamdewitt.com.

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